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In search of wheat

Posted May 26 2010 8:42am
Many people ask: "How can wheat be bad if it's in the Bible?"

Wheat is indeed mentioned many times in the Bible, sometimes literally as bread, sometimes metaphorically for times of plenty or freedom from starvation. Moses declared the Promised Land "a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey" (Deuteronomy 8:8).

Wheat is a fixture of religious ceremony: sacramental bread in the Eucharist of the Christian church, the host of the Holy Communion in the Catholic church, matzoh for Jewish Passover, barbari and sangak are often part of Muslim ritual. Wheat products have played such roles for millenia.

So how can wheat be bad?

What we call wheat today is quite different from the wheat of Biblical times. Emmer and einkorn wheat were the original grains harvested from wild growths, then cultivated. Triticum aestivum, the natural hybrid of emmer and goatgrass, also entered the picture, gradually replacing emmer and einkorn.

The 25,000+ wheat strains now populating the farmlands of the world are considerably different from the bread wheat of Egyptians, different in gluten content, different in gluten structure, different in dozens of other non-gluten proteins, different in carbohydrate content. Modern wheat has been hybridized, introgressed, and back-bred to increase yield, make a shorter stalk in order to hold up to greater seed yield, along with many other characteristics. Much of the genetic work to create modern wheat strains are well-intended to feed the world, as well as to provide patent-protected seeds for agribusiness.

What is not clear to me is whether original emmer, einkorn, and Triticum aestivum share the adverse health effects of modern wheat.

Make no mistake about it: Modern wheat underlies an incredible range of modern illnesses. But do these primitive wheats, especially the granddaddy of them all, einkorn, also share these effects or is it a safe alternative--if you can get it?

I've ordered 2 lb of einkorn grain, unground, from Massachusetts organic farmer, Eli Rogosa , who obtained einkorn seed from the Golan Heights in the Middle East. We will be hand-grinding the wheat and making einkorn bread. We will eat it and see what happens.

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